6 Fictional Fighting Styles (and How to Fake Them)

1. Fighting style: Venusian Aikido

Where it comes from: Doctor Who

What it is: The eleven Doctors on the long-running British serial, while being of exceedingly varied temperaments, have all shied away from violence whenever possible. However, from 1970-1974, the third doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, became a master of Venusian Aikido.

Real aikido stresses self-defense while protecting the attacker from serious injury; the BBC’s time-traveler was no different. After defeating three armed men in 1973’s “The Green Death” the Doctor shouts, “Venusian Aikido, gentlemen! I do hope I haven’t hurt you!” before shuffling off to continue his adventure. At various times, the Doctor uses pressure points, kicks, throws, and even joint locks. While he never really gives anyone more information on Venusian Aikido other than its name, it proved more than effective at helping him out of jams even if he was a couple centuries old—he did only look 55 anyway.

How to fake it: Technically, the art is designed for Venusians, so you’d need five arms and five legs to really throw down. But from the looks of it, the Doctor’s style mostly consists of yelling “Hi-ya!” and tossing out some classic ‘70s judo throws and karate chops.

2. Fighting style: Mok’bara

Where it comes from: the Klingons

What it is: It wasn’t until Star Trek: The Next Generation that Trekkies got to see how the Klingons train. To be honest, Klingon Mok’bara looks an awful lot like Tai Chi. Practitioners use very slow, controlled movements intended to unify the mind and body, or to quote the Klingon Lt. Worf, “the form clears the mind and centers the body.” While Mok’bara can use weapons like the bat’leth and b’k tagh, the majority is devoted to Tai Chi-esque movement.

In the episode “Birthright,” a mid-plié Worf tells some students that Mok’bara is “the basis for Klingon Combat” just before taking down an uppity young Klingon who sneaks up on him. In a different Mok’bara class, Worf blindfolds a student half his size, tells her to defend herself, and then repeatedly knocks her down—to teach her what unfair means.

How to fake it: Seriously, it looks just like Tai Chi. There are plenty of videos online of people doing “Mok’bara,” and it’s really just Tai Chi. If you want a head start, though, listen to Worf: “First, you must learn how to breathe. Stand tall, as tall as you can.” Then, you just find a Romulan to beat the snot out of.

3. Fighting style: Baritsu

Where it comes from: Sherlock Holmes stories

What it is: Sherlock Holmes died falling over the Reichenbach Falls at the end of “The Final Problem.” Eight years later, Holmes came back having cheated death with baritsu, "the Japanese system of wrestling.” Using baritsu, Holmes slipped out of Moriarty’s grasp and avoided the fall. Strangely, this is the only mention of baritsu in any of the Holmes stories, and Sherlockians think that it should have been bartitsu, a martial art invented by British japanophile and expert mustache-wearer Edward William Barton-Wright. Barton-Wright hybridized judo, boxing, and fencing into his own self-defense method (the “bart” in “bartitsu” is from his name) much of it using a fashionable cane. Barton-Wright ran a bartitsu school for years but also published articles with wonderfully polite titles like “How to Put a Troublesome Man Out of the Room,” which sounds like a Holmes story in itself.

How to fake it: Even though baritsu isn’t real, bartitsu is, so you don’t even have to fake it. People still teach bartitsu in some martial arts schools. If there’s not a school near you, last year Ivy Press published Barton-Wright’s techniques in hardcover: The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence: The Manly Art of Bartitsu—as used against Professor Moriarty.

4. Fighting style: Klurkor

[Image source]

Where it comes from: DC Comics’ Superman

What it is: The Silver-Age DC Comics universe was chock-full of strange little plot devices that have been removed or changed since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. In the pre-Crisis DCU, Superman comics often featured the miniaturized city of Kandor, the planet Krypton’s lost capital (because planets have capitals). Kandorians didn’t have Superman’s powers while in the city, so they developed a martial art called Klurkor.

Superman and his cousin Supergirl both learned Klurkor, but the style was most often used by super-girlfriend Lois Lane. Lois learned enough that in Lois Lane # 76, she calls herself “a master of Klurkor…a Kandorian improvement on karate” while beating the snot out of a thief.

How to fake it: Mostly, you’re going to use karate chops. But if you want to get serious, strap on some rollerskates and practice kicking people in the face. In Superman Family #198, Lois reminds herself and the reader about Klurkor just before skate-fighting some Metropolis Rockets roller-derby bruisers.

5. Fighting style: Omnite

Where it comes from: Logan’s Run

What it is: Omnite only appears in the original novel, not in the 1976 film. In the novel, all people have to be executed on their 21st birthdays. Those who run away (“runners,” get it?), are hunted by “sandmen” like Logan 3. Logan, like all sandmen, is trained in Omnite, a martial art built from many others: “From Japan: jujitsu. From China: kempo and karate. From France: savate. From Greece: boxing and wrestling. The finest points of each art were combined in Omnite.”

Let’s ignore the fact that both karate and kempo are Japanese and that French kickboxing is probably pretty ineffective.

Logan does manage to break out of an ice prison and escape a deadly robot with a Matrix-y Omnite technique where he imagines “there was no cell bar” before striking and shattering it.

How to fake it: Apart from wardrobe—foam-padded mittens, a short white skirt, and Michael York’s foppish haircut—the best way to fake it would be to learn a couple moves from several styles so well that you could effectively fight while on one knee, “the classic Omnite attack position.”

6. Fighting style: Weirding Way

Where it comes from: Frank Herbert’s Dune

What it is: Women join the Bene Gessarit, a politically powerful religious sisterhood of Reverend Mothers, by purposefully overdosing on melange (Dune’s magical drug-cum-oil-metaphor called “the spice”) and then mastering prana-bindu training, which kind of gives them superpowers. Prana-bindu creates mind-body unity that gives its users complete control over every muscle, so much so that they can contort in impossible ways or even bend just their little toes.

Instead of using this to start a circus, the Bene Gessarit created the Weirding Way. With the Weirding Way, a fighter can strike with superhuman force and speed. In Children of Dune, the Bene Gessarit woman Alia is capable of delivering “a toe-pointing kick which could disembowel a man.” On top of this, the Bene Gessarit have other powers that let them simply imagine themselves behind an opponent and move so quickly they appear to teleport.

How to fake it: Considering you probably shouldn’t try overdosing, this could be tricky. For the movie, David Lynch didn’t want to film “Kung-fu on sand dunes,” so he created “weirding modules” that turn voices into weapons. So, faking the Weirding Way could probably just be a microphone and some massive sub-woofers.

job secrets
10 Secrets of Hotel Room Service

Guests visiting New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel in the 1930s enjoyed an amenity that was unheard of at the time: waiters delivering meals directly to their rooms. While the Astoria’s reputation for luxury has endured, room service is no longer exclusive to five-star stays. Roughly 22 percent of the country’s 54,000 hotels [PDF] are willing and able to bring breakfast, lunch, or dinner to people who prefer to eat while splayed out on a large and strange bed.

To get the scoop on what goes into getting food from the kitchen to your floor, Mental Floss spoke with Matt, a hospitality specialist who spent a total of 10 years working in and around room service for a major San Francisco hotel. Matt preferred not to use his last name; since his stories sometimes involved naked people, undercooked chicken, and Oprah, you can understand why. Below, check out a few things you should know before you dig into that tray.


When a room service delivery employee takes a tray from the kitchen to your room, it’s typically covered in a metal lid to retain heat and to prevent other guests from sneezing on it. The higher up you are, the longer it has to travel—and the more that lid traps steam, soaking your food in moisture. “Food sweats in there,” Matt says. “Instead of having crispy, toasted bread, you get wet toast. The longer it stays in there, the worse it gets.” If you want crunchy fries, you’d better be on the first couple of floors.


A seafood dinner is presented on a plate

That lid is a nuisance in other ways. Because it traps heat, it’s effectively cooking your food in the time it takes to get from the chef’s hands to yours. “If you order a steak medium, it will probably be medium well by the time it gets to you,” Matt says. While you can try to outsmart the lid by requesting meat be cooked a notch lower than your preference, it's not so easy to avoid overcooked fish—which will probably also stink up your room. Instead, stick with burgers, club sandwiches, or salads. According to Matt, it’s hard to mess any of them up.


Just because you see a menu in your room, it doesn’t mean the hotel has a kitchen or chef on-site. To cut costs, more hotels are opting to out-source their room service to local eateries. “It might be ‘presented’ by the hotel, but it’s from a restaurant down the street,” Matt says. Alternately, hotels might try to save money by eliminating an overnight chef and having food pre-prepped so a desk clerk or other employee can just heat it up. That’s more likely if sandwiches or salads are the only thing available after certain hours.


Two coffee cups sit on a hotel bed

No, not for the reason you’re thinking. Because so many hotel guests are business travelers who are away from home for weeks or months at a time, some of them get tired of eating alone. When that happens, they turn to the first—and maybe only—person who could offer company: the room service waiter. “People are usually traveling alone, so they’ll offer you food,” Matt explains. Sometimes the traveler is a familiar face: According to Matt, he once sat down to eat with Oprah Winfrey, who was eating by herself despite her suite being filled with her own employees. He also says he had a bite with John F. Kennedy Junior, who wanted to finish watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High before heading for his limo.


Busy hotel kitchens aren’t always paying attention to whether the chicken wings they buy in bulk are frozen raw, frozen cooked, or somewhere in between. “Ask for them extra crispy,” Matt says. That way, they’ll be cooked thoroughly regardless of their freezer status. “I recommend that to everyone.”


A hotel guest pours milk into a bowl of cereal

Breakfast is undoubtedly the busiest time for room service, and those little cards that allow you to check off your menu items the night before are a huge help. “It’s great for everybody involved,” Matt says. “The kitchen can pace themselves and you can get your food on time.”


Yes, guests answer the door barely clothed. No, this is not optimal. “We don’t want to see it,” Matt says. “It's something we dealt with numerous times.” While it's likely your waiter will use discretion, any combination of genitalia, drugs, or illicit activity is best kept out of their sight.


A hotel room service tray sits in a hallway

That move where you stick your soggy fries outside your door? It can lead to some awkward encounters. Matt says he’s seen other guests stop, examine trays, and then pick up discarded food from them. Other times, people leave unimaginably gross items on the trays. “I’ve found condoms on there. Divorce paperwork. All kinds of things.”


Weird people aside, “We don’t really want it out there,” Matt says. “It stinks.” Instead, dial 0 for the front desk and let them know you’re done eating. They’ll dispatch someone to come and get it.


A tip is placed near a hotel check

People pay out the nose for room service, with hotels adding surcharges for “service” and “in-room” dining that can turn a $5 club sandwich into a $15 expense. That’s not great news for guests, but it does mean you don’t need to feel bad about not offering a cash tip. Those service fees usually go straight to the employees who got your food to your room. “I never tip,” Matt says. “Most of the time, the service and delivery charges are given to the waiter or split between the people who answered the phone and pick up the tray. It’s better to leave it all on paper to make sure it gets divided up.”

Big Questions
What is Mercury in Retrograde, and Why Do We Blame Things On It?

Crashed computers, missed flights, tensions in your workplace—a person who subscribes to astrology would tell you to expect all this chaos and more when Mercury starts retrograding for the first time this year on Friday, March 23. But according to an astronomer, this common celestial phenomenon is no reason to stay cooped up at home for weeks at a time.

"We don't know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people," Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, tells Mental Floss. So if Mercury doesn’t throw business dealings and relationships out of whack when it appears to change direction in the sky, why are so many people convinced that it does?


Mercury retrograde—as it's technically called—was being written about in astrology circles as far back as the mid-18th century. The event was noted in British agricultural almanacs of the time, which farmers would read to sync their planting schedules to the patterns of the stars. During the spiritualism craze of the Victorian era, interest in astrology boomed, with many believing that the stars affected the Earth in a variety of (often inconvenient) ways. Late 19th-century publications like The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars connected Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall. Characterizations of the happening as an "ill omen" also appeared in a handful of articles during that period, but its association with outright disaster wasn’t as prevalent then as it is today.

While other spiritualist hobbies like séances and crystal gazing gradually faded, astrology grew even more popular. By the 1970s, horoscopes were a newspaper mainstay and Mercury retrograde was a recurring player. Because the Roman god Mercury was said to govern travel, commerce, financial wealth, and communication, in astrological circles, Mercury the planet became linked to those matters as well.

"Don’t start anything when Mercury is retrograde," an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun instructed its readers. "A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backwards. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication." The power attributed to the event has become so overblown that today it's blamed for everything from digestive problems to broken washing machines.


Though hysteria around Mercury retrograde is stronger than ever, there's still zero evidence that it's something we should worry about. Even the flimsiest explanations, like the idea that the gravitational pull from Mercury influences the water in our bodies in the same way that the moon controls the tides, are easily deflated by science. "A car 20 feet away from you will exert a stronger pull of gravity than the planet Mercury does," Dr. Hammergren says.

To understand how little Mercury retrograde impacts life on Earth, it helps to learn the physical process behind the phenomenon. When the planet nearest to the Sun is retrograde, it appears to move "backwards" (east to west rather than west to east) across the sky. This apparent reversal in Mercury's orbit is actually just an illusion to the people viewing it from Earth. Picture Mercury and Earth circling the Sun like cars on a racetrack. A year on Mercury is shorter than a year on Earth (88 Earth days compared to 365), which means Mercury experiences four years in the time it takes us to finish one solar loop.

When the planets are next to one another on the same side of the Sun, Mercury looks like it's moving east to those of us on Earth. But when Mercury overtakes Earth and continues its orbit, its straight trajectory seems to change course. According to Dr. Hammergren, it's just a trick of perspective. "Same thing if you were passing a car on a highway, maybe going a little bit faster than they are," he says. "They're not really going backwards, they just appear to be going backwards relative to your motion."

Embedded from GIFY

Earth's orbit isn't identical to that of any other planet in the solar system, which means that all the planets appear to move backwards at varying points in time. Planets farther from the Sun than Earth have even more noticeable retrograde patterns because they're visible at night. But thanks to astrology, it's Mercury's retrograde motion that incites dread every few months.

Dr. Hammergren blames the superstition attached to Mercury, and astrology as a whole, on confirmation bias: "[Believers] will say, 'Aha! See, there's a shake-up in my workplace because Mercury's retrograde.'" He urges people to review the past year and see if the periods of their lives when Mercury was retrograde were especially catastrophic. They'll likely find that misinterpreted messages and technical problems are fairly common throughout the year. But as Dr. Hammergren says, when things go wrong and Mercury isn't retrograde, "we don't get that hashtag. It's called Monday."

This story originally ran in 2017.


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